Protea Wines

Protea WinesYou Can Bring Me Flowers

Protea [PROH-tee-uh] (sometimes also called sugarbush) is the national flower of South Africa. It was named after the Greek god Proteus, who could change his form at will, because the flowers have such a wide variety of forms.

Taking its inspiration from the flower, Protea the winery is on a mission to make wines that dare to be exotic and beautiful in every way.

The winery is located in the Franschhoek [FRAHNSH-hoook] Valley, about 45 miles due east of Cape Town on South Africa’s western coast. Franschhoek, which translates to “French Corner,” was first settled by French Huguenots in the latter part of the seventeenth century, but quality wine production there is a relatively recent phenomenon. Encircled by the mountains that form the Drakestein Valley, Franschhoek is a highly-regarded, cool-climate wine ward (growing area), which historically has particularly favored white-wine grapes, especially sémillon, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.

A popular tourist destination, Franschhoek draws visitors for its many fine-dining restaurants as well as its wines.

Protea is especially proud of their bottles. They were designed by Cape Town native Mark Eisen. An internationally recognized fashion designer, he has now turned his attention to artistic glass. Using an advanced screen-printing process in which nontoxic ink fuses with the glass at a very high temperature, Eisen was able to transfer his evocative designs directly onto and wrapped around the bottle.

Protea encourages their customers to repurpose rather than merely recycle the bottles, using them to hold floral displays, olive oil, candles, etc.

Protea also hosts a blog on their Web site. The blog is for “social, adventurous, and creative women.” It provides accessible wine knowledge, simple entertaining tips, and easy crafting ideas, giving women “the confidence to entertain affordably and sustainably.”

Protea Chenin Blanc 2014

This 100% Chenin Blanc is light-blond in the glass. It shows aromas of fresh, crisp fruit, especially citrus. This continues on to the palate, where you’ll find hints of pear, grapefruit, honeysuckle, and melon. The wine is medium bodied, with well-integrated supporting acidity. An excellent choice for the warm weather just around the corner.

Try this with Citrus Terrine with Orange Coulis, Frisée Salad with Bacon and Poached Egg, or Scallops with Endive.

Protea Red Blend 2012

Happily, pinotage, South Africa’s workhorse red, is not to be found anywhere near this blend of 53% cabernet sauvignon and 47% merlot. This medium-bodied, ruby-hued wine starts out with delicate suggestions of tea and espresso on the nose. The flavor basket of dark stone fruits is augmented by cocoa-like tannins and a medium-length finish.

This wine would like to go with Chicken in Red Wine, Rabbit with Mustard Sauce, or Steak Frites, a truly classic pairing.

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Ernie Els Big Easy Wines

Ernie Els Big Easy Wines
An Ernest Effort from Els

Welcome to another installment in my series on golfers’ wine projects.  This time the focus is on Theodore Ernest “Ernie” Els, known as “The Big Easy” due to his imposing physical stature along with his fluid, seemingly effortless golf swing.

Els launched his winery in 1999 in Stellenbosch, South Africa [predictably, since he’s a native]. With award-winning winemaker Louis Strydom at the helm, they produced the maiden 2000 vintage of Ernie Els, a ‘classic’ Bordeaux blend. This impressive facility is now home to eight different Els selections.

Wines of varying quality have been made in South Africa for over 350 years. Stellenbosch, in the country’s southwestern Coastal Region, is one of the oldest and most highly regarded growing districts. It is similar to a Mediterranean climate, with an average rainfall of around 25 inches per year. The soils largely consist of clay, with the deeper soils having a considerable amount of granite, just the sort of difficult land that quality grape vines prefer. The majority of the vineyards at Ernie Els Wines are north-facing, with the rows running in an east-west direction, resulting in the optimal utilization of sunlight. In summer, the vineyards’ close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean provides cool sea breezes that moderate temperatures, extending the ripening period.

 Big Easy White 2011

Yes, Els rather cheekily labeled these wines after his nickname. This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc, with no oak aging whatsoever. The wine is pale gold, and the nose is delicately perfumed. The prominent flavor is grapefruit, with a hint of almond and spice. There is plenty of acid, complementing the grapefruit flavor profile, with the finish featuring some of grapefruit’s bitterness, as well.

Match this wine with New Orleans-style Barbecued Shrimp, Chicken Clemençeau, or Cheese Soufflé.

Big Easy Red 2010

This red blend is 60% Shiraz and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the balance Mouvedre, Grenache, Cinsaut, and Viognier (with the exception of the Cab, this is a typical Bordeaux blend). It is dark purple in the glass, with a rather boozy nose. It was barrel aged for 12 months in 80% French and 20% American oak.
The palate is dense and full bodied, with plenty of tannins. Earthy flavors of black cherries, coffee, and chocolate predominate, and are smoothly integrated. A hint of cocoa on the finish delivers a slight bitterness that is less welcome than it is in the Big Easy White.

Serve this red with Steak and Truffled Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Chicken wth Watermelon Relish, or Garlic Pork Roast.

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